Saturday, November 22, 2008

How I became a Libertarian

Want to turn someone into a libertarian quick? Get her to open a small business, especially in a place like Israel, or India, or New York. You'll have a small-government fanatic for life, or until she gets big enough to afford a good lobbyist.

I'm an expert in how a government can turn a little company's life into living hell. Israel loves her exporters, and I'm an importer. Before my stuff can even be released by the ports, it has to be labelled in Hebrew, it has to have passed the government standards institute, and I have to pay import tariffs of up to 15%. On my store I have to pay property taxes of about 50% of my rent. I have to charge my customers 15.5% sales tax. I have to put printed price tags on every item in the store, but the central bank is manipulating the currency, so the prices have to keep changing.

The details of these regulations are mostly not legislated by parliament but set down willy-nilly in a mess of ministerial directives, governmental company procedures and bureaucrat whim. Often, even these are too much to hope for. Where does one classify a guitar effect pedalboard under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule? The answer could mean the difference between a 0% tariff (musical instruments and accessories) and a 15% tariff (furniture).

The government monopoly ports take large fees on incoming shipments, and their unionized workers are lavishly paid. But the real trouble comes when they strike and delay our shipments.

For these reasons and many others like them, I was drawn to Libertarianism. But I began to see that if government is so pernicious to small companies, it might not be a good idea to entrust it with education, health and pension plans.

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